News from Africa

12 March 2017

SOUTH  AFRICA    Two incidents in February 2017 disrupted services in the busy commuter network around Pretoria.    On 16 February 2017 a local emu service was derailed on a faulty point near Hatfield station.    The point blade had not closed properly allowing the wheel on one bogie to jump from the track.    On 20 February 2017 an two emu services were in head-on collision at Lynross station near Pretoria.    It appeared that one train had run through a red signal.  One hundred passengers were injured,  twenty of them seriously.

28 January 2017

MOROCCO    Africa’s first high-speed railway, between Tangier and Kenitra (185 km) is due to commence full public services in June 2018, with test operations from February 2017.   Some limited public services will operate during the latter part of the test period.      Later extensions will see the route extended south through the capital Rabat to Casablanca, and later still over a new branch to Agadir by 2035. Alstom is supplying four double-deck DUPLEX trains that will operate at up to 350 km/hour cutting the travel time over the initial section from 3 hours to 47 minutes.

12 November 2016

SOUTH  AFRICA   Two commuter trains were involved in a head-on crash early on 24 October 2016 while travelling on a single track branch at Esselen Park in Tembisa north east of Johannesburg.    It is thought that a driver of one train had missed a red signal.    One person was killed and 243 injured.

12 October 2016

ETHIOPIA    The new standard gauge railway from the capital Addis Ababa to the Red Sea port of Djibouti (466 miles) was opened for freight services on 6 October 2016.    The line is electrified at 25 kV AC.       Financed and built by Chinese firms, the line will have Chinese management and operating staff until local replacements are trained.       Freight trains will take 12 hours for the journey compared with at least three days over the deeply rutted road between the two points.     Passenger services will commence in about three months time.    A Cape-gauge railway between the same end-points closed between Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa eight years ago after falling into disrepair.

For more information follow this link:

Ethio-Djibouti Railways

6 September 2016

SOUTH  AFRICA    Transet, the Government owned freight company, has awarded a contract to Bombardier to build 240 electric locomotives.     These are being assembled at two Bombardier plants – at Koedoespoort in Pretoria, and at Edwin Swale in Natal.     A new factory was opened on 25 August 2016 at Isando, near Johannesburg, in which the Mitrac high-power propulsion equipment will be manufactured.

24 August 2016

SOUTH  AFRICA     Arson attacks on suburban stock have become a serious problem in the Cape Town area.    The most recent incident on 7 August 2016 resulted in the destruction of two motor cars and two trailers at Retreat Station.    In the past two years fifty nine coaches have had to be taken out of service due to fires and the loss of stock is making it difficult to provide a full service on all lines.

8 April 2016

SOUTH  AFRICA    Transnet Engineering is planning to develop a design for a commuter emu with an eye on the large potential need in South Africa where most of the existing fleet will be replaced during the next few years.     A significant need exists also in Egypt (around Cairo and Alexandria).   Several new suburban services are likely to start up during the next few years including those in Nairobi and Lagos.

25 March 2016

ALGERIA   Alstom is to supply twenty six 44m long Citadis trams for the new 15.2km long east – west tramway in the city of Setif.    The trams will be assembled at the new plant in Annaba and the tramway is due to open in 2018. Below is a link to a YouTube video giving information about this tramway. Note that there is only a music soundtrack and French on-screen text.

EGYPT   A Chinese consortium, which is making major inroads into the civil engineering market in Africa, is now undertaking a major tramway project in the city of Heliopolis.    This appears to include an upgrade to the existing tramway there.

12 March 2016

SOUTH  AFRICA    Services on the branch line to Daveyton in the Rand have been withdrawn temporarily because local gangs have targeted railway staff and sometimes passengers.   On 22 February 2016 one train was set on fire and staff have sometimes had to run for their lives when attacked by stone-throwing gangsters.

22 February 2016

KENYA   Good progress is being made with the construction of a new standard gauge railway between the port of Mombasa and Nairobi.     A later phase of construction will take the railway to Malaba on the Kenya / Uganda border.    A new proposal has been discussed by Ministers from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan to electrify the new railway to reduce the overall journey time and increase the capacity but the line will open around late 2017 using power from individual diesel locomotives.

SOUTH  AFRICA   The railway track bed close to Capetown is undergoing erosion from seas that are stormier than usual.   The line is being threatened near Glencairn on the Simonstown branch in the Cape Town suburbs by the movement of large amounts of sand covering the tracks and station car parks.    This then exposes insecure sections of the coastline including the track bed of parts of the Simonstown route.

6 February 2016

ALGERIA   A consortium including Colas Rail and the local engineers EMA have been awarded the contract to build two extensions to the Algiers metro.   They are both relatively short 1.7km and 3.6km long – and both are to open during 2017.

MOROCCO   The single track main line between Marrakech and Settat (143km long) is to be double tracked in order to handle rapidly rising passenger traffic.

EGYPT   A light railway network with routes extending for 70km is to be built to serve a new city that is planned some miles east of Cairo and will be linked to the capital by means of the new light railway.    The plan is for business people to move from their homes in existing crowded suburbs to pleasant new homes in uncrowded locations and using the new tramway to travel to work in Cairo each day.   There will be 12 stops on the new network.   A Chinese consortium is completing the planning of the new light railway and expects to start construction later this year.

SOUTH  AFRICA   The Cape Town – Simonstown suburban line reopened on 25 January 2016 after being closed for several months following storms which depositing vast  amounts of sand and debris on the tracks.

19 January 2016

EGYPT    The Government has announced a 15 year investment programme for transport costing US$ 13.5bn.     New high-speed railways will be built to link the major cities (cost $5bn).    Cairo Metro Line 3 will be completed by 2022 and capacity on the other lines will be boosted so that the Metro will carry 1.5m passengers every day.   Only 15% of citizens in Egypt own a car so public transport plays a vital role.

5 December 2015

SOUTH  AFRICA   Alstom is acquiring 51% of the stock of the massive Union Carriage and Wagon plant at Nigel, in the Rand.     This factory has built most of South Africa Rail’s electric locomotives, most of the freight wagons, and two Blue Train sets.    Alstom is keen to increase its presence in Africa and intends to supply locomotives etc to nations across the continent.

2 November 2015

MOROCCO   Alstom is to supply fifty Citadis LRVs to operate services on the 22.5km long Line 2 of the Casablanca tramways.   The trams will be 32m long and will run in pairs with a capacity of 606 passengers.    Alstom supplied 74 LRVs for use on Line 1 of the tramway which is 31km long and opened in December 2012.

1 October 2015

ETHIOPIA   Construction of the first heavy rail electric railway in East Africa between the port of Djibouti and the capital of Addis Ababa is going ahead with much of the finance and the actual construction performed by Chinese firms.    Meanwhile a two-line 34km long tramway is being built in Addis Ababa by the Chinese Railway Engineering Corporation at a cost of $475m, 85% of the cash coming from Chinese interests.  The north – south route opened on 20 September 2015.

SOUTH  AFRICA    The last section of the Cape Town suburban branch to Simonstown was closed in February 2015 when a retaining wall collapsed and a large volume of earth and sand was heaped across the tracks,     There have been long delays while engineers consider how best to repair the damage.  A massive residential development including a hospital, schools, and a shopping centre is being built at Modderfontein, north east of Johannesburg.   The area is being served by a new station on the Gautrain route and is being built by the developer.     Plans to convert the national rail network from Cape Gauge (1067mm) gauge system to standard gauge (1435mm) have been halted because of the US$110bn cost.

4 September 2015

ALGERIA   The Constantine tramway has carried 7.2m passengers in the two years since it opened in July 2013.    A 10km long extension is to be built by a consortium led by Alstom during the next three years starting at Zoueghi Slimane station and running to the Mohamed Boudiaf International Airport via the new township at Ali Meadjeli.    Extra trams are to be built by Alstom at the new Annaba assembly plant.

IVORY  COAST   A build-operate contract for the first metro line in Abidjan was signed on 6 July 2015.   The consortium includes Hyundai Rotem and Keolis and the rolling stock will be built by Hyundai Rotem. The 37km long light railway linking the northern and southern suburbs via the city centre and the International Airport follows for much of the route the right of way of the existing metre gauge heavy rail line.    The light railway will open in stages from 2020.

14 August 2015

ALGERIA   The State Railways have confirmed its order with Alstom for the construction of seventeen 6-coach bi-mode (diesel and 25kV electric) multiple units for fast services between Algiers, Oran, Annaba, Constantine, and Bechar.

SENEGAL   The Government has invited expressions of interest  for the work to upgrade and electrify the main line from Dakar as far as Diamniadio (36km) and then along a new branch 19 km long to the soon to be opened Blaise Diagne International Airport.

SOUTH  AFRICA   The Gautrain Management Agency has invited tenders for twelve additional train sets to alleviate peak hour overcrowding especially on services running south of Centurion.  A new factory is to be opened by the Gibela Consortium in Dunottar, near Springs in the Rand, for the assembly of 580 of the 600 six-car emus to be supplied for suburban services around Johannesburg. A major training exercise is being organised so that inexperienced local workers can perform the work. The first twenty trains will be assembled overseas by experienced staff who will then act as guides for the new workforce.

3 August 2015

EGYPT   The first of the new Hyundai Rotem trains has entered service on Cairo Metro Line One several weeks ahead of schedule.   Twenty nine-car trains are on order of which four are being supplied ready to run from South Korea.    The remaining trains will be assembled from kits in Egypt.

MOROCCO    The high-speed railway between Tangier and Kenitra will be opened early in 2018. The first of twelve Alstom Duplex train sets arrived on 29 June 2015 and the project is around 70% complete.    The journey time will be 47 minutes giving an average speed of 233 km/hour.   On the southern extension to Casablanca trains will be limited to 220 km/hour with much of the route being the substantially upgraded conventional railway.

17 July 2015

MOROCCO     Over US$ 400m will be spent during 2015 on the construction of the 200km long high-speed railway between Tangiers and Kenitra.     The 19km long two-line light rail system in Rabat was opened in May 2011 and there are now plans for extensions that would double the length of light railway.   The construction of a 2.3km extension to Line 2 was approved by the City Council on 25 February 2015.

SOUTH  AFRICA    A 4km long branch is planned to run from Belville to Cape Town Airport. Finance is being assembled to allow Gautrain to purchase of additional rolling stock, build a  second train depot, and improve signalling to allow the  operation of additional trains.

1 July 2015

ALGERIA   The final 23km of the light rail line in Algiers was opened on 14 June 2015.    Forty one Alstom Citadis trams will carry around 100,000 passengers each weekday.

SOUTH  AFRICA   The China Development Corporation is to lend Transnet $US 2.5bn to help fund its current order for new locomotives.

4 June 2015

SOUTH  AFRICA   The first two of the 3600 suburban service coaches ordered have been completed at the Alstom plant in Lapa, Brazil.

22 May 2015

ALGERIA    It is intended to electrify all the important railways across the nation increasing from the present total of 4000 route km to 6000 km by 2017 and eventually 12300 km.   Train speeds are to rise to 220 km/hour within the next few years and up to 350 km/hour eventually.   Meanwhile a Citadis tram assembly and maintenance plant is being built in Annaba to meet the growing needs of countries in North Africa.

SOUTH  AFRICA   The order from the National Railways for 359 class 22E and 100 class 21E locomotives represents the largest ever order for Chinese railway equipment.   The locomotives will be dual voltage (3 kV dc / 25 kV ac).

8 May 2015

SOUTH  AFRICA   Transnet is to invest  R205bn in improving the rail infrastructure in order to transform the freight rail division, the fifth largest in the world.      Power supply cuts have been a problem in recent months disrupting commuter and freight services at several parts of the country but especially in Cape Province.   Of 4091 scheduled departures from Cape Town during one week in April 2015 985 were significantly delayed due to power cuts with a significant number delayed by up to two hours.
The Blue Train, the world famous luxury train linking Cape Town with the Rand, has attracted poor loads of late and operating losses are mounting.  A business and marketing partner is now being sought to help make the train better known and attract many new passengers.

10 April 2015

MOROCCO   The first 19km of the two-line Rabat tramway was opened in May 2011 and a further 20 km is now planned starting with a 2.3km extension of Line 2.    The 200km long Tangiers – Kenitra high-speed line is now being constructed.     A new station has been built at Casablanca Port and is expected to handle 5000 commuters during each rush hour.

ALGERIA   A Metro is to be built in the nation’s second largest city – Oran.    The initial 19 km will serve several sporting venues, the university, a major shopping complex, and the main line railway station.

SOUTH  AFRICA    Many long distance passengers trains were withdrawn in November 2014 but the reaction from the public was very negative.   A service between Johannesburg and Komatipoort was provided during Easter 2015 and was so successful that the restoration of other services across the country is to follow.   The following level of service will be provided.  Johannesburg – Cape Town  4 trains each way per week plus one Premium Class service weekly (The Blue Train);       Cape Town – East London 1 return train per week;  Johannesburg – Durban 4 return trains per week;  Johannesburg – Port Elizabeth  3 trains each way weekly;    Johannesburg – East London  3 return services per week;  Johannesburg – Bloemfontein  1 service each way per week;   and on the route that started the revival:-   Johannesburg – Komatipoort  2 return trains per week.

25 March 2015

EGYPT   Alstom has been awarded the contract to build the infrastructure and the signalling on the 3.5 miles extension of Cairo Metro Line 3 to the Airport.    It is planned to open in 2018. See the link below for more information about the Cairo Metro.

Cairo Metro

SOUTH  AFRICA   Two new Chinese built electric locomotives, 20-031 and 20-032, have been painted in the distinctive “Blue Train” livery and hauled the famous train out of Pretoria on 11 March 2015.      They hauled the train right through to Cape Town since they are able to operate on both 3kV DC and 25 kV AC and therefore there is no need to change locomotives twice on the journey behind older classes of locomotive – at Kimberley then Beaufort West.

28 February 2015

EGYPT     The railways have been subject to numerous bomb attacks during the past seven months resulting in significant damage to the track and other parts of the infrastructure.   In addition 60 coaches have been badly damaged.    Safety services are now being operated ahead of scheduled inter city and very long distance trains and many overnight trains have been cancelled.

14 February 2015

SOUTH  AFRICA   Transnet has ordered 240 dual voltage (3kV dc and 25kV ac) main line locomotives from Bombardier.

29 January 2015

EGYPT     Alstom is to supply signalling equipment for the 240 km long double track Beni Suef – Asyut line which operates alongside the Nile south of Cairo.     The system will provide colour light signals, bi-directional operation on each track, and will use Alstom’s Electronis Interlocking System (EIS)    It will be in use by January 2019 and will allow a virtual doubling of services  provided.

SOUTH  AFRICA    An electrically powered Johannesburg to Cape Town “Premier Classe” express ground to a halt in the small hours at De Aar because it had run out of diesel fuel.   Although the traction engines use electricity drawn from the overhead wires, the on-board equipment is powered by a diesel motor in a support coach and the staff at Johannesburg had forgotten to fill up the fuel tank. The train lighting, air conditioning equipment, and the ability to open the windows were out of action.   The passengers eventually got to Cape Town by bus many hours late

16 January 2015

SOUTH  AFRICA    A new branch 7.8 km long is to be built from Port Elizabeth to Motherwell Township.   It will be used by large numbers of commuters and no freight will be handled.

7 January 2015

ETHIOPIA    Construction of the 32km long light rail system in the capital Addis Ababa is nearly complete. The $475m cost has been met by a loan from the Exion Bank – a Chinese operation.

For more information please follow the links below:

Addis Ababa light rail

SOUH  AFRICA    Freight traffic on the railways has been given a boost following a significant increase in robbery of cargoes sent by road.  It has become worryingly common for lorries to be hijacked en route and the cargo stolen but once freight is under way on the railway network theft is uncommon.

13 December 2014

SOUTH  AFRICA    South African Railways decided on 27 November 2014 to withdraw many of its long distance inter-city trains.   All services north of Pretoria were cancelled at only a day’s notice.   Second class and tourist reduced fare services from Johannesburg to both Durban and Port Elizabeth were to run on fewer days per week and the recently introduced Premier Class services on the same routes were axed completely.   Traffic on most long distance routes has been falling steeply and fewer than 1m journeys are now made per year.      Air travel has taken most of the Premier Class traffic and buses or private cars meet most of the lower fare market.

1 December 2014

SOUTH  AFRICA    Traffic on the Gautrain services continues to rise    There are two main routes – Johannesburg to Pretoria and to Sandton Airport with 55,000 passengers carried each day compared with 22,000 using parallel bus routes.    Over 40m people have ridden the trains since services began in 2020..

20 November 2014

ALGERIA    A Metro is to be built in Oran, the second largest city in the country.   The 19 km long line will link Hai Essabah and Boukeul.

MAURITIUS    The construction of a 25km long light rail line in the Indian Ocean island republic has been agreed.   It will run from the capital St Louis, over an abandoned railway right of way to the residential community of Curepipe.   31 LRVs will be supplied by CAF to offer a service along a route that has major road congestion problems.   The new line will have five park and ride stops.

28 August 2014

MOROCCO   Alstom has withdrawn from the five year contract to maintain the new 30.7km light railway in Casablanca due to “unresolved contractural differences”.

ALGERIA   Alstom was awarded on 20 August 2014 the contract to supply seventeen bi-mode (diesel and electric) multiple unit trains to operate long distance service across the nation.   The trains will link the capital Algiers with Oran, Annaba, Constantine and Bechar.

SOUTH  AFRICA   Transnet Freight Rail is to withdraw all locomotives aged 30 years or more during the next four years reducing the number of locomotive types in use from 29 to 4.   The move will make maintenance procedures easier and reduce the need to hold a large range of spares.   The introduction of dual-voltage electric locomotives is helping to speed this process.   All locomotives aged 20 years will receive a mid-life refit.     A new large shopping centre costing Rand 60m to build is to be opened at Langa station 11km from Cape Town during February 2015.   45,000 commuters use Langa station each weekday.

6 August 2014

MOROCCO    The Moroccan National Railway (ONCF) has issued a Euro 30m contract to a consortium comprising Thales, Huawei, and Imet to instal the GSM-R control system along five routes totalling a length of 712 km.  Eventually ONCF plans to instal GSM-R along virtually its entire system totally 1923 route km including along Africa’s first true high-speed railway between Kenitra and Tangiers.

SOUTH  AFRICA    Suburban services around Cape Town were disrupted on 29 July 2014 after signal cables were deliberately damaged at no fewer than 25 locations along the 20km long four-track main line between Cape Town and Nyanga.    Repairs were largely completed by 3 August 2014 although normal services were not fully restored until 4 August 2014.    The damage has been linked to a dispute with one of the Trade Unions.

16 July 2014

SOUTH  AFRICA    The Ganz two car emus withdrawn from service in Wellington, New Zealand, were to be hauled to the Welkon plant in the Orange Free State on 26 April 2014, but some were derailed during the move and did not finally reach Welkon until early July 2014.    There they are to be converted into hauled stock with some then being sold on to Zimbabwe, and after a gauge change the others to Tanzania.

ETHIOPIA     Plans for the tram system in the capital, Addis  Ababa, have progressed.   Construction of the two routes (essentially north – south 16.9 km, and east – west 17.35km) is under way by the Chinese Railway Engineering Corporation and this company is supplying a fleet of three section 29m long 70% low floor LRVs.     Bidders are now sought to operate and maintain the system after it opens in 2015.

1 July 2014

EGYPT  Recent political turmoil has hit the tourist industry badly and much of normal day-to-day business has been unable to operate smoothly.   As a result the railways have faced a 87% drop in passenger traffic.   The number carried during March 2014 was just 2.7m compared with 20.7m during March 2013.

SOUTH  AFRICA   Alstom has won its largest ever contract – to build 3600 emu coaches over a ten year period to replace older stock on South Africa’s suburban networks and provide extra capacity for steadily growing traffic originating from rapidly growing suburban communities.

16 June 2014

SOUTH  AFRICA    Fares on the Gauteng (Pretoria/Johanesburg area) and Western Cape suburban railway networks are to be increased by at least 50%.   Some fares will rise by as much as 70%.  Massive subsidies from Central Government have kept the fares at extremely low levels and the Government believes that the time has come for passengers to pay a bit more although the fares will remain very low compared with charges in other urban railways across the world.     The Richards Bay Railway, which carries the second largest volume of coal on any railway in the world, was closed completely during the period 14 – 24 May 2014 to allow a massive catch-up on deferred maintenance and the replacement of obsolete structures.

3 June 2014

ALGERIA   Work has begun on the construction of a 22.7 km long light rail line in the city of Setif. The work is being done by a consortium of Alstom and the Turkish engineers Yapi Merkezi and is expected to be completed in 2017.

EGYPT   The second phase of Metro Line 3 was opened on 7 May 2014.  The first 4.3km long section runs from Attaba (interchange with Metro Line 2) to Abbasiya.  The second phase continues from Abbasiya to Haroun El Rachid (7.2km).   Further phases will lead to an east – west line running across the city centre from Giza in the west to the International Airport in the east – 18km in all.

13 May 2014

IVORY  COAST    A 37km long railway is to be built in the nation’s largest city, Abidjan, linking the Houphouet-Boigny International Airport 18km to the south east, the southern suburbs, the city centre, and suburbs to the north.    Hyundai Rotem will supply the rolling stock and signalling, while the electricity supply equipment will be provided by  Dongsan Engineering. Construction will start in 2017 and will cost Euro 1bn with the finance coming from the consortium which will retain a stake of at least 40% in the operator once the line is opened.

24 March 2014

SOUTH  AFRICA   Details have emerged about the largest ever order for new locomotives that has been placed by Transnet Freight, the largest railway operator in Southern Africa.   1064 six-axle locomotives are to be built by Transnet Engineering at its assembly plants in Durban and Pretoria preserving jobs for 30,000 local workers.     Four international firms are supplying the specialised propulsion equipment.   599 of the locos will be dual voltage electric (3kV DC and 25kV AC) with Bombardier supplying the propulsion equipment for 240 and CSR Zhuzhou Electric supplying the equipment for the other 359 locos.       The remaining 465 locos in this massive order will have diesel-electric equipment from General Electric in 233, while CNR Rolling Stock SA will supply the equipment for the remaining 232 locos.

5 March 2014

SOUTH  AFRICA    Three class 20E locomotives were delivered from China to the railways at Durban Docks.    They will join two others delivered earlier and after testing will be used in the Pretoria area.    A new transport plan “Go Durban” has been drawn up by the city and will involve the expenditure of R20m over the next twenty years.   At present only 50% of citizens live within 10-15 minutes walk of rail public transport but it is hoped to increase this to 85%.   Twenty five new suburban stations will be opened and 500 extra coaches will be obtained.   Both the main rail and bus services will run 24 hours per day and a new cashless fare system will be introduced.    The 13,000 strong fleet of minibus-taxis will be integrated into the system and will provide feeder routes to/from the stations and main bus routes.    The new suburban branch in Durban to Bridge City opened ceremonially on 2 February 2014 with full services introduced on 3 February 2014.     Trains run every 20 minutes at the peaks.

5 January 2014

SOUTH  AFRICA   President Zuma opened the large Kalagadi Manganese Mine on 29 November 2013.    The mine, one of the largest manganese sources in the world, is linked to the Sichen – Port Elizabeth railway by a 23km long branch that is electrified at 3kV dc.
Forty one special trains carrying a total of 80,000 people were organised to carry crowds wishing to attend the Nelson Mandela Memorial event in Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium on 10 December 2013.     The passengers were carried free of charge.

ALGERIA   The Algiers Metro opened on 1 November 2011 and extends for 9.5km between the city centre and suburbs to the south east.   Services operate every 7 minutes between 0500 and midnight using a fleet of fourteen 6-car trains supplied by CAF.    The construction of extensions from both ends is under way and eventually there may be three separate lines.    A light railway was opened on 8 May 2011 serving communities close to the Mediterranean Sea  and extended on 14 June 2012 to reach the heart of the city centre.   A further long extension serves suburbs to the east and the University was opened in late 2013.      A fleet of 41 Alstom Citadis seven segment LRVs provides a frequent service on all routes.    Suburban rail services  operate on two routes to the south and south east of the city centre.    There are around two dozen services daily on each route but no trains after the early evening rush hour.     A tramway is being built in the city of Oran and similar projects are being studied for twelve other cities.


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